The Buell® Ulysses® XB12XT is an adventure
sport-touring motorcycle that combines nimble handling and a perfectly
tuned, sport-inspired suspension with a smooth, reliable 1203cc air-cooled
engine. Standard side and top cases, heated grips and a tall windscreen make
this an able machine for those who refuse to accept the notion that comfort
and practicality have to come with sacrifices.
Buell adventure motorcycles take intuitive handling to both paved and
unpaved roads alike. Featuring premium styling and all day comfort, the
Ulysses goes wherever you want.
Each Buell model is designed utilizing the Buell Trilogy of Technology™ -
chassis rigidity, centralized mass, and low unsprung weight - to produce a
motorcycle which responds instantly to rider input.
New Midnight Black color choice
New Sport touring tires:
- Front: Pirelli Angel ST
- Rear: Pirelli Angel STE
New Clear-lens front and rear turn signals
New Thin-film airbox cover graphics
New Second oxygen sensor and updated EFI calibration improves fuel economy
• Buell® ZTL™ six-piston front brake
• Road-tuned, sport-touring suspension
• Blacked-out engine, frame, forks and other components
• Dial-adjustable rear suspension pre-load
• Cosmetic frame protectors
• Supermoto-style crossbar handlebar with deflectors
• Two-piece, tall windscreen reduces buffeting
• Sport front fender
• Aggressive saw-tooth pattern footpegs
• Twin quartz halogen headlamps
• Triple Tail™ System functions as a passenger backrest or luggage rack over
the rear-seat position
• Detachable three-piece pannier luggage system with top and side hard cases
• Underseat storage
• Functional tool kit
• 2 x 12v. power outlets
• Heated hand grips
• Comfortable, neutral riding position
The Buell® Ulysses® XB12XT is an adventure sport-touring motorcycle that
combines nimble handling and a perfectly tuned, sport-inspired suspension
with a smooth, reliable 1203cc air-cooled engine. Standard side and top
cases, heated grips and a tall windscreen make this an able machine for
those who refuse to accept the notion that comfort and practicality have to
come with sacrifices.
Buell adventure motorcycles take intuitive handling to both paved and
unpaved roads alike.
Featuring premium styling and all day comfort, the Ulysses goes wherever you
want. Each Buell model is designed utilizing the Buell Trilogy of
Technology™ – chassis rigidity, centralized mass, and low unsprung weight –
to produce a motorcycle which responds instantly to rider input.
• Buell Thunderstorm® 1203cc air/oil/fancooled 45-degree V-Twin engine with
DDFI 3 Electronic Fuel Injection ECM
• Fuel in Frame Intuitive Response Chassis
• Rigid cast-aluminum swingarm doubles as engine oil reservoir
• Eight-row oil cooler with Jiffy-tite fittings
• Goodyear® Hibrex® final drive belt with Flexten Plus technology with a
constant-tension pulley for smoother on/off throttle transitions
• Underslung Buell InterActive Exhaust
• 6-spoke, cast aluminum wheels
• Steel braided brake lines
• Fully adjustable 43 mm Showa® inverted fork
• Fully adjustable Showa® rear shock absorber
• Adjustable hand controls
Whether you call them Monster Trailies, Adventure
Sports, Gelände Sport, Supermoto or simply big off road jobbies, everyone is
jumping onto one of the biggest bandwagons in motorcycling. With the current
climate of “Speed kills” making it a licence and liberty threatening experience
every time you open the throttle of your sportsbike, it should come as little
surprise that the biggest selling large capacity bike in the UK last year was
BMW’s seminal GS1200. It seems that, quite simply, the best bike to buy if you
want to have all sorts of fun while staying comfortable and carry lots of stuff
is a big off roader. Of course, the televised activities of Messrs McGregor and
Boorman didn’t do any harm, either.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that calling these behemoths
supermotos is rather stretching things, though some people will do it anyway.
Actually, in the main they are about as likely to go off road as the average
Range Rover, but now we’re just being pedantic.
Over the last few years we’ve tested several of these bikes, on one occasion
actually buying one. And without exception we’ve found them to be surprisingly
capable machines – comfortable enough to ride all day, quick enough to cover
large distances in sensible times and secure enough to be ridden in a, um,
spirited manner when circumstances so required. So there’s a lot to be said for
taking this direction when your licence, your aching bones or your patience with
traffic planners wears thin.
There’s a but, though.
Sure, these bikes are good. Very good, even. But they’re also big. You might
even say very big. We’re back, in fact, to our Range Rover analogy again.
Obviously you’re still only using up a motorbike sized patch of ground, but if
you are slightly short of leg then you’re going to struggle. And they’re heavy,
too. Not ridiculously so, but a lot of that weight is very high up and when it
starts to go…
But more on that later. For now, it’s time to take a look at the latest entrant
to enter the arena.
Erik Buell made his name turning heavy, primitive, evil handling Harley Davidson
racers into slightly less heavy, mechanically primitive but very fine handling
Buell racers. He’s a truly gifted engineer, well able to see alternative ways of
doing things that people simply haven’t tried before dismissing outright. And
more often than not, they work. His bikes are a fascinating blend of ancient and
modern; the prehistoric Harley Davidson motor and gearbox being mounted in a
chassis bristling with high-tech innovations. And the results are a revelation.
But his real area of expertise is making small, incredibly agile sportsters –
either full blown clipons and rearsets jobs or slightly more relaxed but even
more bonkers roadsters. And with one frame and overall layout shared between
different models, you’d think that a trailie would be out of the question.
You’d be mistaken.
First of all, it’s important to note that last year Buell recognised that some
people who were, how shall we say, slightly less svelte than the rest of us,
struggled a bit to contort themselves onto a tiny motorbike. And remember that
Buells are built in the USA, where people aren’t exactly renowned for being
small. Anyway, the long and the short of it was that Buell released a stretched
version of the naked Lightning, with a bigger fuel capacity and rather more room
from butt to bars. And a stretched bike gives far more scope for making it
taller as well without looking like something from the end of an old movie in
Panavision ®… And so the Ulysses was born.
For those who wonder what it actually says on the end of the engine...So what do
we have? Well, in essence, it’s an XB12Ss with longer suspenders and a bit of a
styling nod to offroad riding. Same frame, engine, gearbox and airbox
arrangement, so the fuel lives in the frame while the airbox is where the tank
would normally be. Same sized wheels, same ZTF front brake, same belt drive,
more on which in a moment. The swingarm contains the oil reservoir, as usual,
while the exhaust runs longitudinally under the engine as with all Buells. The
suspension, as well as gaining an extra 45mm movement at the front and 37mm at
the back, gets an extremely useful remote preload adjuster as well as
significantly different spring rates from the Ulysses’ more tarmac biased
siblings. Tyres, of course, are completely different with bespoke Dunlop rubber
carrying a very chunky dual purpose tread pattern.
Now I'm a big fan of belt drive as it's clean, quiet and maintenance free, as
well as being a spectacularly efficient way of converting noise to forward
motion. But they're a little vulnerable on bikes. There have been a fair few
cases of belts snapping after they have been damaged by stones. A small stone
gets caught between the teeth on the belt and then gets forced into the belt as
it reaches the pulley, wedging between the plies and splitting the belt. Not
good. Buell have addressed this issue, working with Goodyear, and come up with a
belt that simply ejects the stone instead. How? I don't know. But I do know that
they routinely run belts on a test rig for the equivalent of 20,000 miles,
firing small pebbles into them to try to cause a failure. And none have gone
The engine remains essentially unmodified, though, in common with the other 1200
Buells, there is a new "InterActive" exhaust which is claimed to offer a broader
spread of torque and power by using an electric valve inside the system to
change the gasflow. Sound familiar? Yes, we thought so too, but hey - if it
works then why not?
Styling is, um, different. It’s fair to say that I have yet to see a bike in
this class that I would actually call pretty. Or even, to be fair, that I would
really feel bad about calling ugly. The Buell continues this trend, with a look
that is best described, I’d say, as functional. The off road bias demands a high
front mudguard in the now established ostrich beak style. twin headlights
(mercifully symmetrical) peer out from behind a set of ‘roo bars while the small
top fairing has a snap-on screen which again fits in with the general style of
the type. Hand guards are fitted, of course. The seat is wide and plush, with an
extremely clever three position rear carrier. If you’re travelling solo, fold
the carrier down over the pillion seat to give you a luggage rack that’s much
closer to the centre of gravity. If you have a pillion then you can fold the
rack so that it stands up to provide a backrest or so that it’s flat behind the
seat to secure luggage. Very neat, very effective and utterly usable.
Now one thing I have mentioned before but bears mentioning again. This bike is
enormous, at least in height. So if you’ve strapped a big bag on behind you,
that’s quite useful to remember before you try to swing your leg over… Just a
So. Enough background, let’s actually get on and ride.
It really is as big as it looks...Starting is the familiar Buell ritual – turn
the key (by the side of the headlight), wait for the little red light to go off
on the panel and thumb the starter. The Ulysses starts easily and settles down
to a lumpy but stable tickover. After donning oxygen for the climb up to the
saddle, getting settled in is fairly easy. As is usual with a Buell, the
controls all fall readily to hand and the instrumentation is uncluttered and
straightforward. There is a 12v power outlet on the left of the fairing, should
you want to power a GPS or similar, and a vast range of Buell goodies will
shortly be launched to facilitate this further. One thing to be aware of,
though, is that the clutch lever is a very long reach and is not adjustable.
Actually, the strange thing is that the lever is no further from the bars than
any other Buell, but the slightly different angle it’s approached from makes it
seem like a real stretch. And it isn’t adjustable – an opportunity for an
aftermarket part if ever there was one.
The gearbox is, if you’ve ever ridden anything with Harley Davidson or Buell
written on it, a revelation. If this is your first time then you’ll wonder what
all the fuss is about. But yes, this is a Buell with a decent gearshift. It is
possible to ride in soft shoes (not recommended) and not get crushed toes. For
the first time, it feels as though the lever is attached to a piece of precision
assembly rather than just stuck into a box of bits that has had the top bolted
down. Clutchless shifts are at last a possibility, as are more prosaic but
probably more useful things. Like engaging first without the almighty clunk
making everyone stare at you.
Something the Ulysses isn’t short of is power. Slip the clutch a little
over-enthusiastically and you’ll be monowheeling before you know it. If you’re
so inclined, the new box allows you to snick into second and keep it up there as
well. But more importantly, there’s ample grunt to drive out of corners and to
rapidly reach a rather naughty comfortable cruising speed.
Handling is on the vague side for Buells, but is still up near the best for this
type of bike. You can’t get away from the fact that the wheels are a long way
away and the suspension is a little more compliant than might be ideal for
spirited road riding. The chunky tyres don’t help either, the whole lot adding
together to give a slightly disconcerting feeling of remoteness. That said, dry
weather showed an extraordinary ability to lean and the Ulysses really did seem
to get better the harder I pushed. Compared to most others in the class it’s at
least as good, allowing me to fling the bike around with enthusiasm and really
start to enjoy it. The eager engine belies its roots and revs freely, offering
masses of low down grunt and drive, while the wide bars and (cliché time)
commanding riding position make hustling through corners a breeze.
The three position backrest is a simple but truly excellent idea...Talking of
breezes, the fairing, while not exactly pretty, does a great job of protecting
the rider from the worst of the elements. The screen, while looking pretty much
the same as all the others in the class, has a great and extremely neat feature.
It comes off. Easily. So it’s a doddle to clean, even with the little
aerodynamic nooks and crannies that are de rigeur with bikes like this. The
handguards do exactly what you’d expect while the seat, for all its cleverness,
is actually very good and comfortable, both solo and two up.
The final frontier, so to speak, is taking a leviathan like this off road. Now
I’m going to be doing that rather more later in the year but as a total
greenhorn in the offroad department, all I can say is that the Ulysses is very
big, rather bulky and a little keen off the clutch to be a truly relaxing
experience for a novice. But it handled a few miles of green lanes well enough
and proved not to be short of ability when things got wet and sticky. Indeed,
the limiting factor was the rider, not the bike, though I suspect that if things
got really rough then the underslung exhaust might prove a little vulnerable.
I’d have fallen off way before then, though.
So, to sum up. The Buell Ulysses is not the best in its class, but it’s up the
with all the others. It has some brilliant features and it is refreshingly
different. It also sounds great, it’s as comfortable as a very comfortable thing
and it sips fuel like an old lady sips sherry at the vicarage tea party. Bolt on
a few choice goodies and pick a continent to explore…
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